Covid-19Magazine Exclusive

Keeping their homes

Alicia worked full time at a York, Pa., candy store before COVID–19 hit. When management drastically cut her hours, it became a horrible time for her and her four children as she fell $2,000 behind on her rent.

Thanks to a local grant given to The Salvation Army to offer rental assistance, Alicia received $1,000 to help her catch up. She paid the other $1,000.

“This helped me out a lot,” Alicia told SACONNECTS magazine. “Without this program, I don’t think I would be able to continue to stay in this house that I’m in now.

“What saved us was The Salvation Army and my landlord being willing to work with me.”

Alicia is now back to work full time and is eternally grateful to The Salvation Army, which also provided food for her family during COVID–19. The Army has also promised to help her obtain her GED and high school diploma.

“Anyone looking for help—The Salvation Army is your best bet,” Alicia said. “They work with you and when they say they’re willing to help you, they follow up, step by step.”


A community responds

Mary, her adult son, and 3–year–old granddaughter found themselves in similar circumstances due to COVID–19. At the end of March, Mary and her son were furloughed from their restaurant jobs and neither was eligible to receive a stimulus check or unemployment benefits because they are undocumented.

Mary approached The Salvation Army for food assistance, which sustained them for many weeks despite their lost wages. Today, they are both back to work.

The assistance was made possible by two grants given to the York Citadel Corps Worship and Community Center to help families struggling as a result of the COVID–19 shutdown and rising unemployment.

The York County COVID–19 Response Fund, launched jointly by the York County Community Foundation and United Way of York County, awarded $22,000 to The Salvation Army.

The corps will use $2,000 to provide food necessities to individuals, families, and seniors. The other $20,000 will be used for rental assistance and crisis budgeting training. Both grants will help residents who have never required assistance from The Salvation Army.

“These funds will help a great deal in meeting the needs of people who are hurting in our community, where the primary needs are for food and housing,” said Major Dennis Camuti, York Citadel corps officer. “We are purchasing food from a local supplier to enhance the variety of foods offered through our food pantry. We’re also providing rental assistance to enable people to forestall evictions and remain in their homes.

Camuti said when Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf’s statewide moratorium on eviction and foreclosures is lifted, “we expect many more people will come to us looking for help.”

Norma Escobar, director of family services at York Citadel, has been dealing with York clients for more than 25 years. She said clients seeking rental assistance need to take a financial literacy class.

“We had one client come looking for $8,000 in rent,” she said. “That’s far more than three months past due. We have criteria that each client must meet in order to assist them. We want to meet their immediate needs, but we also want them to become self-reliant.”

Lise Levin, vice president of community investment for the York County Community Foundation, said that many people currently experiencing hardship have never faced these financial challenges before.

“During this time of crisis, it’s critical that we also offer individuals the tools to increase their financial stability in these uncertain times,” she said. “The Salvation Army helps individuals with limited resources as part of their everyday work in York County. They’re well–positioned to help people examine the budgets of their new situation and fill the gaps for essential needs like food and rental assistance.”

Natalie Williams, vice president of community impact for United Way of York County, added, “The COVID–19 Response Fund for budget counseling and rental assistance will help our neighbors who are struggling to make ends meet during this difficult time.

“We are hopeful that our community, with the assistance of nonprofit partners, will receive the help they need during these unprecedented times.”

Prior to COVID–19, the York Citadel provided food three days a week for the needy. When the virus hit, that frequency ramped up to twice a day, five days a week.

Since mid–March, the York Citadel has distributed nearly 30,000 meals.

by Robert Mitchell and Gwen Owens



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